It’s Time: Time Sensitive Networking and Deterministic Networking

Military Embedded Systems

Published in Military Embedded Systems

Time Sensitive Networking (TSN) is a set of Ethernet networking capabilities used to transmit time-sensitive data across standard Ethernet networks. Originally, TSN grew out of the IEEE 802.1 standard working groups on Audio Video Bridging (AVB) to make sure that independent networks streams for audio and video data arrive at the correct times to ensure synchronization.

AVB also requires guaranteed delivery throughput and latency to avoid problems like missing video frames. Today, TSN features new 802.1 standards and enhancements that go beyond AVB time-synchronized streaming and can support low-latency, precision data delivery over Ethernet for a broader set of industrial, automotive, aerospace, and other real-time communications applications.

Traditional defense and aerospace systems rely on older, proven technologies such as MIL-STD-1553, ARINC 429, and CANBus to support time-critical communications. However, those legacy data buses have not evolved to meet the challenge of ever-faster operating speeds. On the civil aviation side, Ethernet technologies such as ARINC 664 (AFDX) and Time Triggered Ethernet (TTE) have gained some popularity, but these require significant up-front investment and high recurring costs.

What’s more, these legacy avionics solutions aren’t flexible once deployed and cannot be dynamically configured. As an open standard technology supported by most major semiconductor suppliers like Intel, TSN is designed to coexist with today’s low-cost existing Ethernet technologies. It works dynamically, enabling time-sensitive communications channels to be configured and set up flexibly as needed in real time.

In the defense and aerospace market, TSN has great potential: Integrators are envisioning Ethernet backbones for future ground vehicles and aircraft that support not only traditional data and communications traffic, but also precision control over Ethernet for weapons systems, autonomous vehicles, and other devices historically controlled via legacy data buses.

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